In Romanian folklore, Christmas comes from an ancient tradition called “Saturnalia” or the “Winter Sun” connected to the winter solstice.
Because days are shorter at the end of December, the sun must be helped with all kinds of magical elements and rituals to remain alive and not to disappear forever.
A great festivity is made during these three days of Christmas, with drinks, traditional food, pork, fish, bread, corns, sweets, fruits and nuts.
The Christmas Eve is on December 24. A traditional Romanian sweet served on the occasion is called “nappy Jesus” (in Romanian called Turte or Scutecele lui Hristos) made of thin layers baked on a hotplate and filled with honey and nuts.
Usually, everyone cooks Christmas dishes during this day. Traditional dishes for Christmas include a traditional cake called Cozonac, lots of Sarmale – Stuffed cabbage, Caltabosi- similar to hog’s pudding, Toba and many others.
In the evening, the tradition goes that the garbage must not be thrown out, to avoid grievances and damages, the chimneys are cleaned and the ash is thrown on the vineyard, to ensure a bountiful harvest in the year to come. Children bring home fruits, nuts, money, knot-baked breads and other goods they received from caroling and wait for the arrival of Santa Claus.
In Romania children go caroling on Christmas Eve. Actually they start long before that, as they try to go to as many houses as possible. Groups of students – usually theology students, with beautiful voices- start caroling sometime in the second half of December.
Carolers usually expect small food and beverage goodies- fruits, nuts, cookies, glasses of wine for adult carolers- in exchange for their performances.
Traditionally, carolers have bells, whips and drums and make noise to dispel the malevolent spirits. Some of them also wear costumes and masks symbolizing diverse animals, which representing the evil forces. From Christmas until Epiphany, they also visit the houses in the neighborhood singing the Carol of The Star and other religious carols, holding a stick with a Star made of cardboard or other materials on top of it.
Nowadays Christmas is above all a general occasion for giving gifts. It is mostly considered the celebration of peace and joy, when all conflicts and wrath should disappear and when all family members gather around the table after attending church services and after a full day of caroling.
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